This Day in the Civil War

Wednesday Oct. 16 1861

Jefferson Davis was learning, on the job, the perils of creating a new government, new institutions, and particularly a new army from scratch. The Confederate States of America essentially had no army as a nation, just whatever troops were volunteered by the governors of the several states. Furthermore the men themselves were quite insistent that they remain under the command of men from their own state, and if possible stay in their state’s borders. This made it very hard to create a coherent corps structure to defend the nation as a whole. Volunteers from Kentucky who had come to fight for the South requested to return home now that fighting was occurring there, and were very irate when Davis refused them.

Thursday Oct. 16 1862

Gen. George McClellan, often criticized for inaction, did launch activities of a sort today. One of the reasons for his reluctance to take on major campaigns was uncertainty as to the size, strength and location of his opponents. In hopes of rectifying this lack, he ordered two reconnaissance parties to leave today. One, departing from Sharpsburg, Maryland, had orders to travel to Smithfield in western Virginia and investigate what was to be found. Another group left from Harper’s Ferry, at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, to venture to Charles Town, also in western Virginia, an area which was heavily Union in sympathy but still officially a part of the Confederacy.

Friday Oct. 16 1863

The name of Semmes is prominent in the Naval records of the Civil War, but today’s actions feature a different Semmes, and in a different Navy. The rumor was afoot that two Confederate blockade-runners, the Scottish Chief and the Kate Dale, were getting ready to sail from the Hillsborough River. Admiral Bailey, hearing this, sent two ships to intercept. The gunboats USS Tahoma, Lt. Commander Alexander A. Semmes, and USS Adela, commanded by Acting Lt. Louis N. Stodder, went forth to intercept. They used the unusual tactic of sailing to an obscure little village called Tampa, and shelled the town and fort there. After this distraction was accomplished they sent landing parties ashore to go overland to lurk at the river and wait for the dawn to attack.

Sunday Oct. 16 1864

The progress of the campaign by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman from Atlanta to the Sea was running in reverse today. His opponent, Gen. John Bell Hood CSA, had had no luck for weeks in attacking the front of the advancing army, being flanked and outmaneuvered and in danger of being cut off at every place where he tried to make a stand. Finally he was trying a different tactic, cutting Sherman off from his bases and sources of supply. There was very nearly a secondary war in the mountains of Georgia and Tennessee as Hood applied as much pressure as he could to Sherman’s rear. Skirmishing occurred at Ship’s Gap in North Georgia and Bull’s Gap in southeastern Tennessee.

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